The Ace Four was William Henderson's second four-cylinder motorcycle. One of the most charismatic names in American motorcycling history, the Henderson company - founded by brothers Tom and William Henderson in Detroit in 1912 - produced nothing but four-cylinder motorcycles in the course of its 19-year existence. In 1917 the firm passed into the control of Chicago-based cycle maker Ignaz Schwinn, owner of Excelsior, and the Hendersons soon moved on. William then founded the Ace motorcycle company - later taken over by Indian - and thereby had a hand in the design of all the major American-built fours.
The first Ace Four was offered late in 1919 for the 1920 season and retained the 'F-head' (inlet-over-exhaust) valve gear of the original Henderson. (Schwinn's Hendersons went 'flat head' for 1920). Displacing 1,220cc, the air-cooled inline engine employed splash lubrication and was built in unit with the three-speed, hand-change gearbox. A wheelbase of 59" and a seat height of 29" made for a stable and comfortable ride, while weight was kept down to a commendable 365lbs.
To promote its new product, Ace recruited Erwin G Baker, famous for his record-breaking long distance rides for Indian, and 'Cannonball' duly obliged, setting a new transcontinental record of 6 days, 22 hours, 52 minutes, smashing Henderson's existing record and humbling Henderson-mounted rival Wells Bennett in the process. Ranked alongside Crocker, Cyclone, Flying Merkel and a select few other marques, the Ace Four is a highly desirable motorcycle for any collection and examples are seldom offered for sale on the open market.
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